The resemblance to Antigen Shift’s past-catalogue – a wind-blasted mix of rhythmic noise and bleak ambiance epitomized by 2006’s LP Way of the North – may not be immediately apparent on Brotherhood. Now joined by long time friend Jairus Khan of Ad·ver·sary, Nick Thériault’s project feels distinctly different in 2014 than from any point in the past, although the deeper one dives into the twisty pathways of the album, the more familiar it may start to seem.
The chief way in which the record hearkens back to Antigen Shift’s previous sound is in the emphasis on rhythm and forward motion. Full-force banger “Legion” leverages dialogue samples and chug-a-chug guitar riffs in a way reminiscent of various 90s techno-industrial acts like Kode IV and even some early Juno Reactor, its pace-setting beats shifting just gradually enough to keep the track sounding fresh for its seven minute duration. Similarly, “This Is An Exit”‘s sped-up breakbeats and rapidly cycling synth squelches have a bit of a throwback feel, the crisp snare and kick hits conjuring some of the millennial acts who straddled the line between industrial and the broader world of drum n’ bass and its militant offshoot breakcore.
The places in which Brotherhood feels most vital are in the moments in which a cohesive style starts to emerge. The album certainly benefits from the amount of variety in the front half (opener “Forced”‘s piano and strings and the tweaky technoid of “Angry Pillbox” serve as nice counterpoints to the more aggressive numbers) but for my money it’s in the backhalf where the record really distinguishes itself. “Reborn1130” and the groovy “So Much Closer Now” each rely on relatively straight ahead beats and thick basslines in the electro-industrial tradition as a foundation, accents in the form of twisted samples and plaintive pads filling out the space in the mix. Affecting closer “Extraction” applies distorted beats to the formula, coming across as nod to the Antigen Shift’s past even as the project fully comes into itself in a new incarnation.
Positioning Brotherhood as a critic is interesting; it’s not only a very different record from an established (if long-absent) project, it’s also branching out into a number of different directions while honing in on one specific sound to call its own. The sense of renewal and rebirth is strong in it, and while that might put off those who came into it expecting a direct or even peripheral continuation of everything Antigen Shift has done before, it’s probably a more interesting album for it. Coming into it with fresh ears and a lack of expectations is key, in between all the drum hits lie some keen new ideas that are just starting to dig in and take root.